WHITE PLAINS -- The federal fisheries service says the continued operation of two nuclear plants in the New York City suburbs would have an "adverse effect" on two endangered species of sturgeon, but would not come close to wiping them out.

The conclusion appears to help the argument for extending licenses for the Indian Point plants on the Hudson River, although one critic called it wrong and irrelevant.

The National Marine Fisheries Service prepared the document at the request of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is conducting hearings on whether Indian Point's owner, Entergy Nuclear, should get 20-year license extensions. The licenses for Indian Point 2 and 3 expire this year and in 2015, respectively.

The 168-page opinion, made public yesterday by the NRC, says nearly 1,000 shortnose sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon would be killed during the extended lives of the plants, but that would be only a small percentage of the stock.

New York State is currently insisting that Indian Point switch to closed-cycle cooling, which uses much less water and is safer for fish. For that reason, the study is "a waste of time and resources," said Phillip Musegaas of the environmental group Riverkeeper.

Musegaas believes Indian Point will have to either shut down or switch to closed-cycle cooling, which Entergy is challenging.

"We believe the science shows Indian Point has a serious impact, especially on Atlantic sturgeon," he said.

Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for New Orleans-based Entergy, said the company is pleased "that NMFS recognizes Indian Point's operation during its license renewal period is not likely to jeopardize sturgeon fish populations."

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